A coalition of big tech companies, including Microsoft is developing a COVID passport, with the expectation that a digital document linked to vaccination status will be required to travel and get access to basic services.

The group is calling itself the Vaccination Credential Initiative (VCI), and includes Microsoft, Salesforce and Oracle.

The US health provider Mayo Clinic is also involved in the project, which is being described as “the most significant vaccination effort in the history of the United States.”

The idea is now a familiar one. Anyone who has been vaccinated will receive a QR code that can be stored on their mobile phone in the wallet app. Those without phones will have access to a printed version.

We have previously reported on the development of this so called ‘CommonPass’, which also has backing from the World Economic Forum, and now more details have emerged.

Screenshot: ‘CommonPass’ outline – click to enlarge

“The goal of the Vaccination Credential Initiative is to empower individuals with digital access to their vaccination records,” said Paul Meyer, CEO of non-profit The Commons Project, also involved in the project.

Meyer said that the document will allow people “to safely return to travel, work, school, and life, while protecting their data privacy.”

Meyer said the coalition is working with several governments, and expects standards to be adopted that will see mandatory negative tests or proof of vaccination, in order to re-engage in society.

“Individuals are going to need to have to produce vaccination records for a lot of aspects of getting back to life as normal,” he added. “We live in a globally connected world. We used to anyway — and we hope to again.” 

The Financial Times reports that The Commons Project has received funding for the project from the Rockefeller Foundation, and that it is being implemented by all three major airline alliances.

The Rockefeller Foundation has previously touted its plans for a ‘Covid-19 data and commons digital platform’ as well as a desire to “launch a Covid Community Healthcare Corps for testing and contact tracing.”

“Coordination of such a massive program should be treated as a wartime effort,” the foundation states on its website, adding that there should be “a public/private bipartisan Pandemic Testing Board established to assist and serve as a bridge between local, state, and federal officials with the logistical, investment and political challenges this operation will inevitably face.”

Screenshot: Rockefeller Foundation ‘Covid action plan’ website
Screenshot: Rockefeller Foundation ‘Covid action plan’ website

The group also wants to see a global standardisation of the so called vaccine passports, noting that “The current vaccination record system does not readily support convenient access, control and sharing of verifiable vaccination records.”

The coalition of big tech firms is looking to “customize all aspects of the vaccination management lifecycle and integrate closely with other coalition members’ offerings, which will help us all get back to public life,” said Bill Patterson, an executive vice president at Salesforce.

“With a single platform to help deliver safe and continuous operations and deepen trust with customers and employees, this coalition will be crucial to support public health and wellbeing,” Patterson claimed.

Mike Sicilia, executive vice president of Oracle’s Global Business Units added that “This process needs to be as easy online banking. We are committed to working collectively with the technology and medical communities, as well as global governments.”

Ken Mayer, founder and CEO of Safe Health also stated that the VCI “will enable application developers to create privacy-preserving health status verification solutions that can be seamlessly integrated into existing ticketing workflows.”

Put more simply, it will “help get concerts and sporting events going again,” Mayer said.

The context seems clear. Those without the COVID passport will not be allowed to travel or engage in social events.

Hundreds of Tech companies are scrambling over themselves to develop COVID passport systems.

As we reported last month, the IATA, the world’s largest air transport lobby group, expects its COVID travel pass app to be fully rolled out in the first months of 2021.

A further ‘COVID passport’ app called the AOKpass from travel security firm International SOS is currently undergoing trials  between Abu Dhabi and Pakistan.

We have exhaustively documented the privacy and rights concerns associated with the move toward adoption, and more importantly the global standardisation of so called COVID passports.

UK based human rights group Privacy International has warned that if “immunity” passports are issued by some governments, it could signal a creep toward “digital identity schemes” and other mandatory ID schemes. 

“Once you have multiple uses (e.g. access to services) in multiple domains (i.e. public sector, private sector), in multiple countries (i.e. travel), then we are approaching a global identity document needed to live your life,” the group warned.

Sweden based human rights group The International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) warned recently that 61 per cent of countries have used COVID restrictions “that were concerning from a democracy and human rights perspective.”

Anna Beduschi, an academic from Exeter University, commented on the potential move toward vaccine passports by EU, noting that it “poses essential questions for the protection of data privacy and human rights.”